It's to be expected that when the pope speaks, the world listens. But Pope Francis leaves no doubt that his message will be heard. Last week, he said that Communists had stolen from Christians "the flag of the poor." Today he celebrated Mass with six victims of clergy sexual abuse and said: "I beg your forgiveness."
After the Mass, Pope Francis met privately with each victim—the first time he has officially met with clergy sex abuse victims. In classic Francis style, he did not mince words:
Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God. Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.
Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.
I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.
That part struck me—particularly that this pope would ask for forgiveness for a culture that existed under other popes—but his entirely homily (in English here) is worth reading.